The Spurs beat the Hornets

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Published: March 2, 2010

The Hornets lost their fourth game in five tries tonight, falling to the visiting Spurs, 92-106 (box). San Antonio steadily built up a big lead with some hot shooting in the first half, and were able to answer every Hornets run with poise and precision. Marcus Thornton had a big night for New Orleans, putting on a torrid shooting display and finishing with 30 points in just 27 minutes.

Pick and rolled to death

Textbook offensive basketball by the Spurs when they had Tony Parker running the pick and roll with Tim Duncan. Darren Collison mostly went under the picks and Parker was able to capitalize with some jumpers. David West and Emeka Okafor took turns trying to hedge out on Parker but TP made them pay by turning the corner and getting to the basket, or finding Duncan rolling to the hole. When guys like Thornton or James Posey caved in to deny Duncan, Parker was able to deliver some great skip passes or swing the ball to find the open man for three or a slasher from the weak side.

That’s simple, fundamental basketball, and it’s hard as hell to do. But the Spurs do it as well as anyone and the Hornets had no answers for it tonight. Darius Songaila was missed big time, since he’s nifty at hedging out and not getting lost in no man’s land like West and Okafor are prone to.

Rookie report

Thornton was on fire tonight, getting those 30 points on just 19 shots. He dropped 6-of-7 from deep and took full advantage of the lanes that hot shooting opened up by going hard to the rack several times. My favorite moment of the night came when he took a hard dribble to the baseline and fired home a fallaway over the outstretched arms of George Hill midway through the fourth. An impossible angle on that shot, and all Hill could do was shake his head in disbelief afterwards.

Collison was coming off his career-high 35-point night against Dallas yesterday, and managed only 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting against the Spurs. In the first half I thought he did a great job of taking what the defense was giving him, which wasn’t many open looks. Instead he stayed patient with his dribble and set up his teammates for some very easy makes, heading to the locker room with 11 dimes to his name. In the second half though DC seemed a lot more reserved and his stats reflected it. I’m inclined to believe all those heavy minutes were finally taking their toll. Three games in four nights and he’s been on the bench for just seven minutes total.

Other notes and observations:
  • Emeka Okafor was active, scoring 18 points and grabbing 7 boards and blocking a couple of shots in 32 minutes. He did a solid job on Duncan in single coverage but, as mentioned, got murdered trying to stop the pick and roll. Emeka also had some foul trouble tonight, but those 32 minutes seem about right.
  • Morris Peterson got off to a terrible start in this one, getting burned repeatedly by Hill and failing to take advantage of Parker guarding him at the other end. Mo was a crucial part of that 13-0 Hornets run in the third quarter though, crashing the defensive boards and getting aggressive on his drives.
  • James Posey always has a few nice defensive plays in a game and he’s been rebounding pretty well all season, but man, when is his shooting slump going to end? He shot 29.7 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from deep in February, and tonight he was 1-of-5 overall.
  • Much the same story as the Dallas game for West and Stojakovic. West saw frequent crowds and rarely got a clean look at the basket. Plus, he was often matched up against DeJuan Blair, who proved hard to back down and seemed to to be in possession of all those box outs and hustle plays that West frequently misplaces. Meanwhile, Peja misfired on lots of good looks once again, shooting 4-of-12 from the field for 11 points. I felt he was rushing a lot of shots he didn’t need to.
  • The nightmares of an abused child cannot compare to the awfulness that is Julian Wright vs. Manu Ginobili. One guy is a savvy veteran, and the other is something else entirely. I’ll die happy if I never see that matchup again.
  • The Hornets were down 20 midway through the third quarter before they started to play with any kind of consistency, and were able to whittle the Spurs’ lead down to as little as 5 points late in the period. Given that such comebacks are becoming an almost nightly occurrence for the Hornets, to the point where falling behind by double-digits has become pretty much inevitable, I vote that they start spotting the opposition a 20-point lead at the start of every game, thus giving them the full 48 minutes to get back into it. If NBA rules forbid this, Jeff Bower could just have four of his guys go stand in the corner for the first five minutes and let Julian Wright throw repeated turnovers on the inbound (surely he can handle that). Such a strategy would serve to give Collison some extra rest, too. Two birds, one stone, can’t possibly fail.

In other news, the Blazers won in Memphis tonight, putting them four games ahead of the Hornets for that eight and final playoff spot. Oh, and the Rockets also won, so they edge ahead of the Bees in the standings.

Hornets back at it against the Grizzlies in New Orleans on Wednesday. Word is Darius Songaila might be back for that one.

Last thing: if you missed it, be sure to read Ryan’s post addressing the Hornets’ dilemma of having two studs who play the same position.

UPDATE: Game highlights…

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